Qualicum Magical History Tours

Updated: Jul 11

July history closeup: The Log Cabin

Built in 1925, the Log Cabin Inn was very popular with visitors and locals alike because it offered a little of everything. Swimmers could come right up to the wide verandah facing the beach at high tide. You could get candy and ice cream, teas and home-cooked meals.

There was a fine dining room, and a large hall that was used for dances and ‘picture show nights.’ The dances, featuring live bands from Nanaimo, were a big hit - some young men walked all the way from the sawmill in Nanoose to attend. At one time, Beach Creek ran underneath the building – if you opened a trap door during spawning season you could see fish jumping. The Inn offered four cabins, and you could get fishing equipment, boats, canoes and advice about local conditions. In the 1940s, the dance hall was repurposed for use as a roller rink until a storm damaged the hall in the mid-1950s. The Log Cabin was torn down in the 1970s to make way for the Sandpebbles Motel. Image MSC130-4773-01 courtesy of the British Columbia Postcards Collection, a digital initiative of Simon Fraser University.

Walking tours are on!

The Town Tour tells the story of Qualicum’s beginnings, our pioneers and first merchants and takes a up-close look at our many lovely heritage buildings. The Crown Tour describes Qualicum’s glamourous heyday as an internationally renowned resort, featuring the old QB Inn, golf course and Crown Mansion. Tours run Thursday, Friday and Saturday - PM me through this site to book. For Tuesday Tours book through the Qualicum Beach Museum and partial proceeds go to the Museum.

June history closeup: Eaglecrest

What we know today as Qualicum’s Eaglecrest Golf Course was once the setting for a grand lodge and farm, the magnificent vision of Senator A.D. McRae. The lodge (pictured here) once stood across the street from what are today, 933 and 936 Bluff Drive.

Senator McRae was many things: military man, land speculator, prominent industrialist and farmer. He liked to do things big, and Eaglecrest lodge, made of specially peeled cedar logs, was truly titanic, spanning nearly 60 m (200 ft.) long and 15 m (50 ft.) deep. It boasted four massive stone fireplaces, and a sweeping view of mountains and ocean.

The inside was equally grand. At the center of the lodge was the spacious living room, with a fireplace that reached the to the top of the soaring, 8 m (27 ft.) ceiling. The room was lavishly furnished with hand-made furniture, valuable antiques and imported, hand-woven rugs.

In the north wing were two guest rooms, a servant’s living room, the kitchen and dining room on the ground floor with the servants’ quarters upstairs.

In the south wing were two more guest rooms and Mr. and Mrs. McRae’s suites: hers with French Habitant furniture, green and white linen and white polar bear rugs; his bedecked with the McRae clan’s green and blue hunting tartan, and a collection of B.C.’s fur-bearing animals, including a black bear between the chimney and the sloping roof, and two cougars inset in recesses above the hearth. Also on display was McRae’s noteworthy collection of ancient Scottish weapons and fire-arms; to the right of the hearth, an ancestral suit of armour.

The great lodge was McRae’s headquarters for Qualicum Farms Limited which extended for several miles along the waterfront.

The effort to transform Qualicum Farms’ 460-acre property from largely water-swamped peat into a working farm, was mammoth. One hundred men were employed, clearing the land, digging miles of drainage ditches and hauling in hundreds of tons of earth to make the ground arable. They also cleared a half mile of beach of rocks and boulders, some of which weighed up to 37 tons.

Livestock was all prime quality: a herd of prize Shorthorns, carefully picked from the E.P. (Edward Prince) Ranch of H.R.H. Duke of Windsor at Pekisko, Alta.; 22 head of black-faced Highland sheep imported from Scotland, and poultry including full-fledged Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds and Whitehorn turkeys.

The Senator’s other major land interest was McRae Farms Limited, four farms comprising two square miles in the Hillers area.

Senator McRae passed away in 1946, and two years later, the lodge and estate were bought by Leonard Boultbee, a real estate man from Vancouver.

Boultbee turned Eaglecrest into a posh holiday retreat. He and his family used small cottages on the estate as their living quarters, and gave the lodge over to their guests, who paid from $20 to $50 a day for the lodge experience (pricey at that time). The place was so exclusive, staff checked the social standing of guests by calling the prospective guest’s home town.

Visitors could take in the vast seascape from an observation platform, which was built around a twisted tree and overhung a 60 ft. cliff. From here, winding roads led down to the beach, complete with cabana beach house and barbecue.

They could also partake of a bit of golf practice on the spacious putting green – really more like a miniature golf course. At the rear of the lodge, extensive bowling greens, as level as a billiard table, stretched from the flagstone terrace to the edge of the seaside cliffs. On the south side of the lodge were croquet greens in a setting of young decorative trees.

Guests dined by candlelight at the long, English refectory table in the baronial dining room. Massive, metal-studded doors opened on a bar of burnished copper, and 5-branched, wrought-iron torchères flanked the fireplace.

For the 4-day visit of a young Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in October, 1951, all guests were cleared out the month ahead, and the cook, Maria Agnes Colquhoun, made up a shopping list that included four chickens, two 22 lb. prime rib roasts and a 16 lb. ham, crystal sugar, 5 lbs. of fresh mushrooms and Scottish oatmeal, and she had a pound of caviar on dry ice flown from New York to Qualicum Beach.

Mrs. Colquhoun’s menu pleased the royals, but to her horror, the princess loved mushrooms so much that she couldn’t stop eating them and the cook had to make a late-night run to Nanaimo to get more.

For guests enjoying lunch at the luxurious country retreat on March 23, 1969, the disaster that was about to unfold was far from their minds. A fire broke out near the chimney of the main fireplace, and it was soon out of control. A hastily formed bucket brigade, a sprinkler system, and 25 volunteer firemen – hampered by a lack of water and equipment – could not quell the blaze.

After the fire, all that stood were four towering stone fireplaces and chimneys, haunting testaments to Eaglecrest’s one-time grandeur.

In July of the following year, a new Eaglecrest Lodge – close replica to the original – rose from the ashes. Three years later, Boultbee persuaded the Town of Qualicum to invest in a 1,500-gallon tank truck for the volunteer fire department, and to extend fire protection to his estate. Despite these measures, on July 10, 1981, the replica Eaglecrest went up in flames. It was never rebuilt.

May history close: The Qualicum College Inn

...........How a British style boarding school became the setting for medieval feasts, a Hollywood movie and all that jazz

The Qualicum College operated as a private school for boys from 1935 to 1970, British-style, like its founder, Robert Ivan Knight, with a focus on high academic standards, sports and rigorous discipline. Upon closing the College, Knight envisioned the sea-side premises as an ideal setting for a boys' summer camp.

But entrepreneur Mike Dyde had other ideas.

The Qualicum College Inn opened its doors as a 20-room hotel on May 5, 1972. Owners Mike Dyde and Kerry Keilty melded remnants of the old college days with medieval motifs. One could enjoy a drink in the ‘Prefect’s Lounge, and the Old Boys’ Dining Hall was hung with photos from the school’s archives. The restaurant meal comprised five ‘removes’ – the medieval term for courses. The Manor House Country Soup was ladled from a table-side cauldron into wooden bowls, and the ’Squire’s Serving’ of meat – chunks of beefsteak and lamb – were eaten with a hunting knife. The College Inn’s semi-annual Jazz Weekend was a popular draw, featuring jazz greats such as George Shearing, Cannon Ball Adderley and Ramsay Lewis.

In the summer of 1977, the College Inn became the setting for a made-for-TV movie, Ants! The local Qualicum Beach volunteer fire department played an integral role, rescuing beleaguered guests from the ant-ridden Inn.

In the same year, Dyde and Keilty proposed a convention center and tourist facility on 3 1/2 acres close to the Inn, designed like a Tudor Village with shops, boutiques, and spaces for craftspeople and artists. Neighbourhood residents raised concerns about increased noise and traffic, and the idea was shelved.

Postcard image of the Qualicum College Inn courtesy of Laurel Lahay, Campbell River.

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